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“The BA.2.75, a sub-variant that has accumulated several disturbing mutations”

Finances News Hebdo: We see that Omicron is more resistant with a fairly long lifespan. We are now faced with a new sub-variant, the BA.2.75. What do we know about this newborn and where does its particularity lie?

Dr. Tayeb Hamdi: Indeed, the BA.2.75 is a sub-variant of Omicron. It was detected during the month of May in several states in India. It is found today in other countries in Europe, Asia, but also in Australia and New Zealand. What is known about this subvariant is that it has accumulated many important mutations that can give it faster and stronger contagiousness than the previous BA.5 subvariant. Currently, there are not many studies on the BA.2.75. On the other hand, we think that it would be more transmissible and more contagious; it is highly likely to take the place of the current predominant BA5 variant. For example in India, we notice that there is an exponential evolution of the BA.2.75, whereas previously it was the BA.5 which was strongly represented. So when the BA.2.75 competes with the BA.5, the BA.2.75 wins. It is a first sign of transmissibility and contagiousness.

FNH: These changes are worrying, especially since we are in the middle of the summer period. Where is Morocco compared to the BA. 2.75?

Dr TH: Indeed, this new subvariant is worrying and that is why the World Health Organization (WHO) is scrutinizing it. This is a subvariant that has accumulated several mutations that are worrying. It is true that we do not know how these mutations go behave in reality. This is why they are currently in the observation phase. Most likely, it is going to be more transmissible and therefore more contagious, and it will gain ground. The BA.2.75 is sure to make waves, especially in the fall. In any case, we are never sure of the behavior of a new variant, but it will certainly be talked about and will make the news during the winter.

FNH: Are the currently available vaccines effective against these mutants, in particular BA.2.75? Does this sub-variant require exceptional sanitary measures?

Dr TH: So far, we do not have any efficacy study specific to currently available vaccines with respect to this BA.2.75. But what we do know is that this subvariant manages to thwart the immunity of people who are already vaccinated. BA.2.75 can therefore infect vaccinated persons and those who have been infected with SARS-CoV 2. Until now, this sub-variant has not shown any particular virulence, particularly in India, and until proof of the otherwise, it is not expected to be more lethal than previous variants. It is therefore necessary to carefully study and observe its evolution to measure the degree of its dangerousness. In any case, the problem arises much more in the elderly who lose this immunity either by vaccination or post-disease. For this specific category, we must remain vigilant. The other point to raise concerns people in good health, especially young people. We do not know how the immunity of these people will behave against BA.2.75 during the winter. Should booster doses be generalized, or will there be upgraded vaccines that will be more effective against these new variants? These questions are necessary and the answer will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, but also on the immunity of humanity in the months to come. This is why we must respect barrier gestures, limit travel, get vaccinated…, a mandatory ritual to now live with Covid-19.

FNH: There has been an increase in deaths in recent days in Morocco. What is this due to and what is their profile like?

Dr TH: On the one hand, it is automatic, the more cases we have, the more deaths we have. This proportionality changes with the waves. Precisely, during the first three waves, they were strong. For example, when we had 3,500 to 4,000 cases, there were dozens of deaths every day. Currently, in Morocco, and in all vaccinated countries, the proportionality is low. Even if there are a lot of positive cases, there are few serious cases and death, which explains why we have developed population immunity, obtained thanks to vaccination and also thanks to the disease. As for the peak, we reached it the penultimate week (from the end of June to July 7), but there is always a difference between the peak of infections and that of deaths, with generally a lag of 2 to Three weeks. Hence a shift in the curve between these two factors. As a result, the deaths seen in recent days are the results of curve infections from two weeks ago and more. There is also another reason: the new variants and the waves always start by affecting people who do not protect themselves, who move a lot, who have a lot of contact, first and foremost young people.

The latter record fewer deaths, but they contaminate their families and entourage and we will therefore have deaths. The number is around 5 to 6 people; one can reach a dozen, but not more. Regarding the deaths of the current wave, 84% are over 60 years old, i.e. 9 out of 10 cases, and the average age of death is 68 years old. Of 20 deaths, 19 people have at least one chronic disease; this represents 95%. Compared to vaccination status, 86% of deaths, or 9 out of 10 cases, are either unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated. Half, or 42%, received no dose. 34% are incompletely vaccinated, receiving only one or a maximum of two doses despite their age, their chronic illnesses and had contracted the fatal Covid a year after their dose. Unfortunately, we note that 10 deceased persons were triply vaccinated.born: this is the 3rd death profile. They were over 62 and suffered from chronic illnesses and their booster dose was received over 6 months ago.

FNH: According to recent studies, monoclonal antibodies would be ineffective against the sub-variants of Omicron. How can we explain this new situation?

Dr TH: Many studies have converged on the fact that several monoclonal antibodies which were previously effective against Sars Cov2 are less and less effective today against Omicron sub-variants. The latter have acquired an immune escape that allows them to no longer be recognized and destroyed by the monoclonal antibodies that were developed with the classic strain. You should know that these monoclonal antibodies are very expensive; they are produced in small quantities and are mainly used in wealthy countries. These antibodies are therefore administered to people who are said to be vulnerable and at risk, in particular the elderly. Their administration prevents serious cases and deaths. However, at present, these monoclonal antibodies are no longer effective as before. Certainly, there are antibodies that are always effective, and others not at all. This is why research has resumed to further explore this method. We will have to resurrect the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies against these new Omicron variants.

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